I watched N.E.D.S last night and it was absolutely brilliant and I say that having seen some amazing films so far this year and the back end of last year including The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Another Year, Get Low, Made in Dagenham, Barney’s Version, Four Lions, The Wildest Dream and of course Inception. But if you are British, went to school in Britain, were ever in a gang, firm or crew, or wanted to be in one, and above all wanted to ‘be someone’, whilst wanting to be yourself, this film is a must.
Set in Glasgow in the 1970’s , it centres around a young, bright lad, John McGill who is faced with the choices of gang membership, class prejudice and a total wanker of a pissed up, wife beating father (who is played by the film’s director, Peter Mullan). The sets, scenes, costume, make up, haor and props are all spot on. One thing you notice is the complete lack of clothing brands, there is a style and identity, but no badge to make the point. Only in the eighties, did branding become important to youth gangs, a way of identifying and separating them from mainstream society. So John is a clever kid, and wants to win by coming top of his class each and every time he is tested. His determination is his drive and if there is no outlet for that drive, not end result, it produces frustration and anger. His brother is the leader of one of the gangs on his estate and his dad is a twat. The rest of the characters are rich and wild, the story is brilliantly told and the acting, largely by the non actors, is compelling and above all realistic.
I can relate to John’s story in many ways, mind you my father is the best man on the earth and never drinks any alcohol before one assumes too much. However, the sense of wanting to ‘be someone’, as Paul Weller wrote and The Jam performed ‘is a wonderful thing’. To belong to a peer group, to prove you can handle yourself, to show your mates you will never back down, always front the opposition. Indeed not only do you not take a step back, you actively seek out and attack the enemy – preferably on their own patch, on their manor, in their face. Anyway, I was very lucky and although had my fair share of ‘japery’ including a couple of nasty wounds, I had opportunities and the chance of a very good education, even though I managed to drop out of school (or expelled as the letter from school said), went off the rails a tad, but had enough confidence to make my way in the world.
I won’t spoil NEDS. It is too good a story and too well told to need an amateur like me to pimp it. This is a really essential British film and one I would urge anyone who ever wanted to be someone to watch.
Meanwhile, enjoy a couple of corking, relevant tracks from The Jam. Not of the time of NEDS (that is more T-Rex and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band), but the lyrics and attitude sum up the spirit of the age.